What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection that starts out as an infection of the gums and if untreated can easily progress to infecting the bone. By the time symptoms such as bloody gums and loose teeth appear, the disease is in an advanced stage. In the early stages, gum disease goes unnoticed by the patient because there are no obvious symptoms beyond occasional bleeding of the gums when brushing your teeth.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria that normally inhabit the mouth. Dental plaque, a sticky film containing oral bacteria, constantly forms all over the teeth. These bacteria produce toxins that cause inflammation and ultimately infection, if not removed on a daily basis.
Do I have gum disease?
The symptoms of gum disease usually are not obvious until an advanced stage of the disease is present. Some early warning signs that can tip you off include:
- Bleeding gums after brushing your teeth
- Bad odor from your mouth
- Puffy, red, tender gums
- Gums pulling away from your teeth
- Tartar build-up filling teeth spaces and covering gums
- Shifting teeth or teeth that have become loose
- Pus present in the mouth
Remember, you may have gum disease without having these warning signs.
How does my dentist know I have gum disease?
During your examination the dentist will check more than just your teeth. The dentist performs a visual examination of the soft tissues as well a palpation exam, where light finger pressure applied to the tissues can reveal a problem. A final check performed by the dentist is a periodontal screening with a special dental probe. If this indicates the presence of gum disease, a full periodontal examination with complete probing of each tooth is performed to determine the extent and location of the problem. Dental x-rays are also very useful in detecting bone loss or even subtle changes occurring in the supporting bone supporting your teeth.
How is gum disease treated?
Once diagnosed, gum disease is treated on an individual basis depending upon the severity of the problem. An ultrasonic scaler and specialized dental instruments are used to remove the deposits from your teeth. You may also be placed on a prescription mouth rinse to help control the bacteria causing the problem. The services of a specialist may be utilized in severe conditions where bone grafting or implanting antibiotic containing tabs may be indicated to save your teeth.
Is my gum disease gone after I finish the treatment?
Unfortunately the answer is no. You are considered in a controlled state of dental health, which must be maintained by special Periodontal Maintenance appointments designed to assist you in maintaining an improved state of health. This phase is the most important, because you play the significant role by thoroughly cleaning your teeth and gums every day in addition to seeing the dentist or hygienist for four Periodontal Maintenance visits every year. Remember, gum disease can reoccur without obvious symptoms, just as it did initially.
Is gum disease really a big deal?
A growing body of research conducted the past few years indicates possible links between gum disease and other health issues including heart disease, stroke, diabetic complications, bacterial pneumonia and increased complications during pregnancy, especially high risk pregnancies.